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Increasing Dog Attack Sentences ‘Will Send A Message To Owners’

Proposals Backed But Warning That More Should Be Done To Help Victims


By Rob Dixon

Lawyers representing victims who have suffered long-term physical and psychological injuries in dog attacks have described new proposals to increase prison sentences for such incidents would send a clear message across England and Wales on the importance of responsible ownership.

The Government is asking for views regarding the amendment of current legislation that states the maximum prison sentence for an owner of a dangerously out of control dog which kills or injures a person is two years.

Launched as part of ongoing efforts to review legislation around dangerous dogs following a number of high-profile fatal dog attacks in recent years, the proposals follow other plans to close a loophole which ensures owners can be prosecuted over incidents on private property and the planned introduction of compulsory microchipping for puppies.

The public have until the start of September to provide opinions on the sentencing consultation, with suggested jail terms ranging from three years up to 10. The plans will also take into account incidents when an assistance animal such as a guide dog has been injured by another dog.

David Urpeth, a Partner and legal expert at Irwin Mitchell who specialises in providing advice to dog attack victims who have suffered serious injuries in such incidents, said tough sentencing guidelines would show owners that irresponsible ownership is simply not an option but warned more could still be done.

He outlined: “Barely a week has gone by without reports of someone being injured in a dog attack appearing in the news, with fatal attacks almost becoming a hugely worrying trend in the recent months.

“We have also seen a significant increase in the number of enquiries we receive regarding dog attack incidents, many of which may have simply slipped under the radar during the ongoing debate on this issue.

“These plans to review and increase jail terms shows a clear will from the Government to clamp down once and for all on irresponsible owners and ensure they are properly held to account for their failure to control their pets.

“The physical and psychological impact that dog attacks have on victims can affect them for years and leave them needing long-term rehabilitation to come to terms with such incidents. It is perhaps only fair that the punishment for such incidents reflects this unfortunate truth.”

David added: “Our only concern regarding these proposals is that it is very much focused on the consequences of such attacks for owners, but less so on victims. 

“Such victims often need access to vital funds which allow them to get the support they need, but we do see problems arise in some cases when some owners simply not have the finances to provide such support.

“This is why we have continued to call for the introduction of compulsory insurance for dog owners, which would guarantee that victims always have an opportunity to access financial support in the aftermath of an attack.

“Shockingly, such a common sense approach continues to fall on deaf ears – at a time when the number of dog attacks continues to rise.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchells expertise in relation to Dog Bite claims